Change up your hot cocoa game by adding vanilla sugar to a homemade cocoa mix for elevated flavors! This easy to make Gourmet Hot Chocolate is comforting and delicious. Makes 2 servings, but can easily be made for a group.
When I was pregnant with our first child, I drank hot chocolate like a boss because coffee wasn’t palatable to me. In fact, I developed this recipe while I was pregnant with her… during a Winter Storm Warning, no less.
I’ve always loved hot chocolate, and there’s something so comforting about it.
There’s something even more wonderful about a homemade hot chocolate. It feels more elegant and gourmet… and it’s actually quite easy to make.
And today, I’m sharing my not-so-secret recipe with y’all for the BEST from-scratch hot cocoa!
What you’ll need to make Gourmet Hot Chocolate
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How to make Vanilla Hot Chocolate
Make the Vanilla Sugar
I highly suggest making vanilla sugar, even though it’s a PITA to get your hands on a vanilla bean. (I also know it’s not cheap, but trust me: It’s worth the hassle.)
Measure your sugar into a mason jar.
Split the vanilla bean down the middle. Using the dull end of your knife, scrape out the seeds/caviar, and drop those into the sugar.
Use a fork to break apart the seeds/caviar and to spread them into the sugar. Stir for a few minutes until combined.
Cover and set aside until it’s time to use.
Make the Hot Cocoa
First and foremost, choose what vessel you’re going to make your hot cocoa in. Since we are heating this in the microwave, I suggest getting a large microwave-safe measuring cup. (This recipe makes two smaller mugs of cocoa, but if you have a giant mug, you could make it in the microwave in that!)
When you have your hot cocoa bowl ready, pour in the milk.
Next, measure in the vanilla sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Whisk ‘em together, but don’t fret if they kind of clump on top of the liquid—that’s to be expected at this point, and they will dissolve into the liquid once warm.
Heat the ingredients in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, then pull them out and stir. (Yes, stirring is important because it gets everything all mixed together. If you skip the stirring, chances are the ingredients in your cocoa aren’t evenly distributed.)
Heat the cocoa ingredients again—until they’re the right temperature for you. Just be sure not to heat them for more than 45 seconds because you do not want to curdle the milk.
When the cocoa is the right temperature, remove and pour into glasses.
Serve ‘em with as many or as few marshmallows as you like, and enjoy warm.
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips
Hot chocolate is a wonderful drink to share with friends and neighbors when it’s cold outside! It can also easily be made quickly, so if you have impromptu guests, this recipe is a gem!
However, if you’re planning on guests in advance and want everyone to enjoy some gourmet hot chocolate, make it in the slow cooker. Simply triple or quadruple the recipe, then heat on low in the slow cooker for 1-2 hours. Use a ladle so guests can serve themselves and decorate their slow cooker hot cocoa with marshmallows.
More ideas for entertaining with hot cocoa:
- Make a hot cocoa bar, complete with different toppings. Set out marshmallows, chocolate chips, peppermint and other ingredients so guests can add the flavors they enjoy to their hot chocolate.
- Spike it with homemade peppermint vodka. Use 1 to 1 ½ oz. per serving, and let your guests add vodka to their own so they can control how much they add. If hosting kids, set the vodka in a different area of your kitchen so the kids don’t think it’s for them.
- Keep it warm in the slow cooker. Yes, even if you make it in the microwave or on the stovetop, keep it warm this way so guests can enjoy their cocoa at the ideal temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s so special about the vanilla sugar? It adds a gentle vanilla aroma and flavor to our cocoa. Is it overpowering? No. It’s subtle, but it adds a layer of delicousness.
Can I make this gourmet hot chocolate without the vanilla sugar? If you don’t want to take the time to make it and don’t purchase it, you can certainly make this recipe with regular granulated sugar. I feel like it’s a little more elevated with the vanilla sugar, but the recipe won’t taste bad without it.
Can I make this hot chocolate recipe dairy free? Yes, you can. Substitute your favorite type of non-dairy milk for the milk in this recipe, and you’re set. You can make the recipe vegan by using vegan marshmallows, too!
Should I use Dutch process or regular cocoa? Honestly, you can use either in this recipe because we are not baking.
Can I make this recipe on the stovetop? Absolutely. It’ll take a little longer, of course, but this can easily be made in a saucepan, too.
What can I serve alongside this homemade hot chocolate? Dessert is always a great idea… so I suggest something chocolatey. The Best Chocolate Cupcakes, Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars and Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies would all be delightful when paired with this cocoa.
Quick tips for making gourmet hot cocoa
- Make it dairy free by using your favorite non-dairy milk. (Unsweetened cashew is my fave, but you do you!)
- Triple the recipe to serve six people. Let everyone add their own marshmallows!
- If you don’t like cinnamon, add a sprinkle of nutmeg for a hint of warming spice.
Vanilla Sugar (Makes enough for 8)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split
Gourmet Hot Chocolate
- 2 cups milk
- 3 teaspoons vanilla sugar
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- A pinch of ground cinnamon
- Miniature marshmallows, as needed for garnish
Make the Vanilla Sugar
- Measure out the sugar into a mason jar.
- Split the vanilla bean down the middle, and scrape out the seeds/caviar.
- Gently place the seeds/caviar into the sugar.
- Using a fork, mix the seeds/caviar into the sugar until combined.
- Set aside until it's time to use.
Make the Gourmet Hot Chocolate
- Measure out the milk into a large microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup.
- Measure in the vanilla sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon.
- Heat the ingredients for 35 seconds on high, then remove and stir it.
- Heat for an additional minute, then remove and stir.
- When the hot chocolate is an acceptable temperature for you, pour into a mug.
- Top with marshmallows, and enjoy warm.
Make it dairy free by using your favorite non-dairy milk. (Unsweetened cashew is my fave, but you do you!)
Triple the recipe to serve six people. Let everyone add their own marshmallows!
If you don’t like cinnamon, add a sprinkle of nutmeg for a hint of warmth.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 362Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 131mgCarbohydrates: 72gFiber: 0gSugar: 58gProtein: 9g
This post appeared on My Cooking Spot, where I was a contributor.
The photos and recipe for this Vanilla Hot Chocolate recipe were originally published on February 23, 2015. The photographs, along with the text of this blog post, were updated on February 17, 2020.